West Kelowna  

West Kelowna turns 10

Incorporate or join Kelowna?

That's the question that faced residents living on the west side of Okanagan Lake a decade ago.

After a nasty campaign, but the narrowest of margins, the decision was made to incorporate.

That decision was made official 10 years ago this week when, on Dec. 6, 2007, then Community Services Minister Ida Chong presented the Westside District Municipality with its Letters Patent, signifying its municipal independence.

The official declaration also came with a large $1.425 million cheque and a water jug and glasses for use at council meetings.

Over the next 10 years, the name was officially changed to West Kelowna, and the District Municipality moniker was changed to city.

The region also grew from rural to city. Services almost non-existent for much of the area at the time, sidewalks, sewer, bike paths and upgraded roadways, were added.

Doug Findlater, who has dedicated much of the last 15 years to the community, first as chair of the Westside Governance Committee, then one year on council and the last nine as mayor, sat down with Castanet News recently to look back on city's first 10 years.

Findlater called those early years a time of optimism, and some trepidation, but believe the city has met, and exceeded expectations.

He pointed to finances as one area where the municipality has been able to exceed expectations.

"We have about $40 million in the bank. A lot of that is reserves, and DCC's," the money the city collects from developers for infrastructure," said Findlater.

"We are at $28 million in reserves and $11 or 12 million in DCC's. That allows us to do capital projects."

Those projects include the $50 million water treatment plant at the Rose Valley reservoir, in which West Kelowna's portion will come from those reserve funds.

And, Findlater said, they've been able to do it with modest tax increases.

"The first year the tax increase was six or eight per cent. Every year since then we have been three per cent or less."

As for his greatest accomplishments as a council, Findlater points to the city's infrastructure program.

"There's a myriad of things we've done and they have transformed this community."

He pointed to 1,500 sewer connections in the first couple of year of incorporation. The new RCMP detachment, nine new beach accesses, the expansion of Pritchard Park, a new skateboard park, upgrades to the CN Wharf and the new water treatment plant.

Findlater is also proud of the progress council has made to ensure BC Hydro makes good on its promise to bring a second power line to the region.

Findlater will finish his third term as mayor next year. He said he won't make a decision on whether he'll run for a fourth term until the summer.

But, looking ahead 10 years, says the city is in pretty good shape.

"I think we will continue to grow. We will have better roads by then, we'll have better water. We'll have more park land.

"We'll be a pretty mature community at 20 years. We won't be that new place anymore."

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